The Art of Quilting: A Journey of Beauty, Patience, and Creativity
“She sat still, I thought, and yet she traveled. And when one stitch, the mind travels, not the way men do, with ax and oxen through the wilderness, but surely our traveling counted too, as motion. And I thought of the patience of the stitches. Writing a book, I thought, which men often do, but women only rarely, has the posture of sewing. One hand leads, and the other hand helps. And books, like quilts, are made, one word at a time, one stitch at a time.” – Sena Jeter Naslund
In February 2018, I visited an art quilt exhibition at the California Heritage Museum on Main Street in Santa Monica with Sandra and Burt Sigal. The delightful exhibit was situated in a house I had driven by hundreds of times without knowing it was such a gem. Part of the fun was listening to Sandra—a master quilter—explain the techniques and methods of construction. It also reminded me of watching my mother sew and make her fashionable garments when I was a child. I enjoyed cropping the quilt photos into abstract images, often removing them from the original narrative.
Quilts are blankets made of layers of fabric and padding, typically stitched together in a decorative pattern. The process of making a quilt involves several steps:
Choosing the fabric: Quilters can use a variety of fabrics, including cotton, wool, and silk. They may choose to use new fabric or repurpose old clothing or other materials.
Cutting the fabric: The fabric is cut into shapes or strips according to the desired pattern. Some quilts are made from a single piece of fabric, while others are pieced together from many smaller pieces.
Layering the fabric: The fabric pieces are arranged on top of one another in the desired pattern, with a layer of padding (usually made of cotton batting) in between. The layers are then pinned or basted together to hold them in place.
Quilting: The layers of fabric and padding are sewn together using a needle and thread, creating the quilt’s decorative pattern. This can be done by hand or with a sewing machine.
Quilt making has a long history in the United States, dating back to the colonial era. Quilts were used as a practical way to keep warm, but they also served as a form of artistic expression and were often given as gifts. Quilts were also made as a way to use up scraps of fabric, and many were made from recycled materials. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, quilt making became popular, and quilt guilds and clubs sprang up across the country. Today, quilts are still made for practical and decorative purposes, and they are often exhibited as works of art.